icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Another Perspective

Meeting Walter Cronkite

Meeting Water Cronkite

It was late January 1970 when I met Walter Cronkite. I was taking an extra year of seminary in order to participate in a church and society training program on Capitol Hill. I was 24 and working in the office of Senator Philip Hart (D–Michigan). The occasion for our meeting was President Nixon’s second State of the Union address.

When I arrived at work in Senator Hart’s office that morning I was told the Senator had an extra ticket for that evening’s Address because his wife, Janey, for whom the ticket was intended, did not want to attend. Feelings about the war in Vietnam were intense and she opposed the President’s policies. Even though I was the bottom-ranking member of the staff, I submitted my name for the ticket. Late in the day I was told I could have it. I was surprised and excited. I was told to go over to the House side of the Capital early, as security would be tight.

Because Senator Hart was one of the most senior members of the Senate, he had been issued a high priority seat. Indeed, when I entered the House gallery I found myself sitting directly across from where President Nixon would be speaking. My seat was much better than even Pat Nixon’s seat, which was off to one side of the chamber.

I was in awe of the whole spectacle. Gathered in this small room were the House and Senate members; the Joint Chief of Staff in full formal uniforms (very impressive); the members of the Supreme Court in their robes; Vice-President Agnew; other dignitaries I didn’t recognize – and I!

The balcony seat on my right was vacant until some heavy-set man squeezed by me, large fanny in my face, just before the proceedings began. I would have had to lean forward and turn around if I wanted to see who this person was. So I didn’t. It didn’t matter since I was having the time of my life just being there. Then this fellow spoke to the person on his right and I knew the voice: it was Walter Cronkite sitting right next to me! I could not believe all this was happening to me, much less on a day that had begun as just another workday.

I wanted to introduce myself to him but I was too shy and besides the President was speaking. We sat quietly next to one another until the Address was completed. It was quite forgettable, especially since I was much too excited to listen carefully. As Mr. Cronkite rose to leave, I gathered my courage and spoke to him. I told him who I was and how I got to be sitting next to him. He was most gracious. He stopped and spoke for a moment with me. He shared that when he was boy, he too had thought about becoming an Episcopal priest. He said a career in journalism was his other choice. At a loss for words, I foolishly told him he’d made the right decision. We parted on that note.

Walter Cronkite treated me with respect and showed an interest in me. He was not full of himself as other famous people I’d met were. For that brief moment we were equals sharing with one another about our life’s journey. I will never forget him.

Be the first to comment